number system

How do you write numbers as string of 0s and 1s?

Learning mathematics involves a progression to higher and higher concepts, building on the foundations of what we have already learnt. But Andrew Irving and Ebrahim Patel explain that no matter how high your mathematical knowledge reaches you must never lose sight of your foundations, no matter how basic they may seem.

How does a computer understand the colours to be displayed on the monitor's screen? It's all about red, green and blue and numbers written in a special way.

According to one mathematician, god created the whole numbers, with everything else being the work of humanity. Why, then did god not equip us with a good way of writing them down? Chris Hollings reveals that our number system, much used but rarely praised, is in fact a work of genius and took millennia to evolve.

The Plus anniversary year — A word from the editors

  • Want facts and want them fast? Our Maths in a minute series explores key mathematical concepts in just a few words.